The Last Birthday
The Last Birthday
The date was May 19, 1962, ten days before his 45th birthday. President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at Madison Square Garden and more than 15,000 people attended, including many celebrities. It was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.
Marilyn Monroe—introduced by Kennedy brother-in-law Peter Lawford— sang the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics in a sultry, intimate voice, with "Mr. President" inserted as Kennedy's name. She continued the song with a short melody from the classic song, "Thanks for the Memory", for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy.
Afterwards, as an enormous birthday cake was presented to him, JFK came on stage and joked about Monroe's version of the song, saying, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way," alluding to Marilyn's delivery, skintight dress, and image as a sex symbol. Monroe's dress was noted for being made of a sheer and flesh-colored fabric with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had to literally be sewn into it; and she wore nothing under it.
This was one of Marilyn Monroe’s last public appearances before her death less than three months later on August 5, 1962. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who rarely attended Democratic Party events, spent the day at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show with her children John-John and Caroline.
On May 29, 1963, John F. Kennedy was 46 years old. JFK’s last birthday was classic ‘Camelot’; His last birthday celebrations – and there were three of them – were full of glamour and all the glitz and ‘Hollywood’ that gave his administration that nickname. The first party was a Democratic Party fundraiser, New York’s Birthday Salute to the President”. It was held on May 23 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with guests paying $1,000.00 to attend. JFK noted in his remarks that his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was ‘down the hall receiving an annual ‘man-of-the-year’ award from the steel industry. Making a joke of it and alluding to the US Steel Crisis of 1962, Kennedy told the audience that “Last year I won the award and they came to Washington to present it to me, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let them in…”
Then on May 29, his staff threw him a birthday party in the White House mess hall (left). Photos showed a relaxed chief executive, wife Jacqueline at his side, bantering with his officials while opening presents (he received a shillelagh, among other things). The assembly toasted his health with champagne glasses. That night Mrs. Kennedy hosted a private birthday celebration on the presidential yacht "Sequoia." invitations were sent out by Jackie’s social secretary, Letitia Baldridge, and requested attendees to wear “appropriately festive yachting suit and dress."
The guest list was a glimpse of Washington gone by. It included family (Robert and Edward Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and their spouses), Hollywood (actors David Niven and Peter Lawford and spouses), and Kennedy pals (Sen. George Smathers and wife, and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and his then-wife Toni) along with old buddies (LeMoyne Billings, Paul Red; Fay,)…. 27 people in all.
By all accounts, the party was a great success. The menu was high 1960s – crabmeat appetizer, followed by roast beef, noodle casserole, and asparagus Hollandaise. And of course, many fancy desserts. “There were plenty of toasts, and after birthday cake at the dining table (left), the president opened presents in the aft salon. Then the dancing started. They were doing the twist, the cha-cha, and everything in between. I don’t think I’d ever seen the President and Mrs. Kennedy having more fun”, noted Secret Service Agent Clint Hill in his memoir, “Mrs. Kennedy and me”.
Thank you to Harvey Goldberg for this interesting article that first appeared in the Official Newsletter of the Kennedy Political Items Collectors organization. For join the organization contact Mr. Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org